Yes, I have kept and can sometimes be seen wearing my ex’s hoodie. No, I am not secretly still in love with them.
I kept the hoodie because it’s a quality hoodie! I dated them for a reason, my ex had style! It doesn’t hurt that it reminds me of who I was during that period of my life. It connects me to someone I love dearly, someone who knew me best during that time and someone I understood deeply in return. This time of year I’m taken back to when we started dating — the shared vulnerability and excitement over receiving the hoodie, the adventures we had, and the emotional and literal warmth of having that hoodie. It’s a souvenir of that relationship, that person and our growth, and a timestamp of my past self.
Admittedly, I’m not a huge hoodie person. I briefly considered returning it but I rationalize that the hoodie was a gift so it’s mine to keep. Calling the item a “souvenir” allows me to create distance from the sentimental item’s romantic past. But is that strange? Or is it more common than we think to hold on to items from the past? I was curious to see if other people also keep memorabilia from past relationships, so I asked other college students if they kept clothing from their previous partners.
Adrienne, 21, has a similar attitude to myself. She said she kept “a flannel [because] it was a nice flannel. Nothing more than that.” Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
For some, the article of clothing does hold sentimental value. Jessica, 20, tells Her Campus of a sweater she kept: “[With it] I can remember the good times,” she says. “I miss them sometimes. Haha. I also can’t bring myself to throw it out because it’s a nice sweater.”
For others, the accessory is removed from the person it belonged to. Fernanda, 21, justifies her continued possession, saying that “the clothes didn’t do anything to me.”
A handful of people flat-out said no to keeping their ex’s clothes, or gave me a cheeky response. Nathalie, 21, tells Her Campus, “I immediately throw it ALL away as SOON as we break up. Out of anger and hurt.” That’s one option. Meanwhile Arely, 25, tells Her Campus, “I burned it all.” Seeing as my ex’s hoodie is mine now, I guess that’s one way I could choose to stay warm during cuffing season.
Marissa, 22, acknowledges how completely getting rid of your ex’s clothes just may be the better option for your mental health. They tell Her Campus that they’ve never kept an article of clothing “because I know that would only make healing harder. I get rid of everything having to do with them.”
Choosing to forget about a past relationship or cut out a toxic person in your life can be an important yet difficult decision. Personally, I find it incredibly difficult to actualize. Instead, I tell myself to remember the parts that will help me make better decisions in my relationships in the future once I leave. Souvenirs like the hoodie remind me of good times.
And while some may still be skeptical that keeping my ex’s hoodie means I’m harboring romantic feelings for my ex, these souvenirs are not exclusive to memorabilia from romantic relationships. I take my dad’s decade-old sandals (which he still uses) with me every time I take a trip. At this point, stealing them from him feels like tradition. I know I’m going to miss him. Having his sandals allows me to feel like I have a piece of him with me.
Other college students shared that they have similar items that they “borrow” from their loved ones. Jessica says that her “brother’s old t-shirts, my mom’s pillow cover, an old book from my fifth grade teacher” are all items that she claimed for herself. As for the book, she remarks how “my BFF stole it for me.”
Salvador, 21, tells Her Campus that he has “a jar of buttons my grandma used to have in her sewing basket for a long time.” Those buttons need to be used at some point!
I like to think of us “borrowers” as being sustainable. These hand-me-downs or forgotten items are given new life. Jessica’s t-shirts give her wardrobe an androgynous edge. Salvador’s buttons will be used on his creations. My dad’s sandals accompany me in warm weather travel, and my ex’s hoodie continues to warm me in these colder months. Not only do these items have renewed purpose, but they have additional sentimental value that can’t be replaced. These articles of clothing enable us to be a mosaic of all the people we’ve ever loved. That’s much more powerful to me than an ever-changing trend cycle that values aesthetics over individuality.
Loving shamelessly and frequently, and expressing that with uniquely documented pieces, is true style.